With a new version arriving, it looks like the 5 Series’ grip on the executive car market is going to continue and possibly even tighten. It’s won so many awards, been bought by so many company drivers as well as private buyers, that it seems to almost be the default setting.
Yet if you go for the 520d – and most people do – you’re getting a luxury, premium car with low running costs. It seems to have it all.
The engine range starts with that 2.0-litre diesel in the 520d. It’s perfectly powerful enough for most people, but of course you can trade up to the 530d or even the 540i petrol engine. All these engines have eight-speed auto boxes and they’re perfectly suited to the engines, being slick, positive and fast-changing.
As standard, the handling is very good, but the ride quality has an irritating shimmy on even vaguely rough surfaces. If possible, go for one with VDC – Variable Damping Control – as this adds adaptive dampers that really do make a noticeable difference to handling and ride. To ensure a quieter and more compliant ride, we’d avoid going for big wheels and tyres.
Particularly with VDC, the handling can verge on the uncanny sometimes, it really is that good. However, it’s something you admire rather than feel a soul connection with. It’s all a touch clinical and efficient for some, for whom something like the Jaguar XF would be more enjoyable.
In the cabin the driver will definitely be sitting comfortably, although it’s irritating that at this price point things like lumbar support are an extra, as are memory seats. However, any irritation will be assuaged by the luscious 10.2in infotainment screen, with Professional Multimedia fitted as standard. It’s one of the best there is. Tech is something the 5 Series does brilliantly well.
The whole cabin feels very premium, and of course spacious. Those in the rear will be perfectly comfortable, although the fifth centre seat wouldn’t be great for longer journeys. However, there isn’t a lot more space than in the 3 Series, and BMW gain no points for once again making things you’d really need, like split-folding rear seats, an expensive extra. The boot, at 530 litres, is big enough, and par for the class, with an electric tailgate available – as you guessed – as an option.
Of the range available, we’d go with the majority and choose the 2.0-litre diesel 520d. It should be very economical, even if not quite the claimed 68.8mpg. We’d take it in the base SE trim since that comes with just about everything you’d need, from dual-zone climate control to sensors both ends and heated leather seats. The M Sport trim does look a lot more aggressive, but the firmer suspension doesn’t do the ride quality any favours. If possible we’d go for the VDC suspension upgrade on the standard SE.